Today I want to talk about self-care. True self-care. Not the romanticized and trendy version the world is constantly pushing down our throats. Not the bath bombs and face masks and #treatyourself high-dollar purchases and ritual meditations the world seems so eager to focus on for peak lifestyles.
No, I’m talking about real self-care. The self-care that is often a very unbeautiful thing.
Self-care is usually the ugliest thing you have to do each day. It’s when you sweat through your clothes during an intense workout to diminish your stress levels. It’s finding a second job to have the funds for an actual savings account. It’s choosing to turn around and walk away from a toxic friendship even through the heartache. It’s sitting down to make a budget spreadsheet with a stack of long-forgotten receipts. It’s figuring out a way to love yourself despite your faults and failings and self-inflicting hurtful thoughts.
Self-care is building yourself and your life into something you do not need to escape.
Self-care is not a deliberate break from Life to do trendy yet basic things like taking a bath or reading a book or binging Netflix. Resorting to any activity due to absolute exhaustion, unwavering anxiety, or self-loathing is not self-care. Read that last sentence twice more, friends. Does this sound like you? I completely understand.
Once upon a time I believed the world’s vision of self-care as well. A few days ago I came across an old journal where I had challenged myself to allow at least 30 minutes of “self-care” each week. This meant I was allowing a half hour on a weekly basis to attempt to find some solace from my constant internal pressures. Looking back, I can see now how depressed I was when creating that journal page.
It was at this time in my life when I exhausted myself on a daily basis. I attempted to keep up with fake friends and worked towards society’s ideal body-type and over-scheduled my free time with community involvement in order to have a better outward appearance. I would do anything to stop myself from realizing how relentless my own thoughts were that told me I wasn’t good enough, or worthy enough, or beautiful enough. Thus the self-care I deemed appropriate were those made trendy by social media and celebrities — usually being some sort of beautifying regimen.
Basically, these were acts we women are expected to be good at. I ended up spending more time trying to get the best camera angle of my yoga mat or choosing the perfect filter of my candle-lit salt bath than I did actually performing the “self-care.”
It goes to figure that so many “self-care” products cost a small fortune. The world in which self-care is a trend is a cruel, ironic one. Since when did getting out of bed call for your friends applauding you on Facebook? When did turning your phone off deserve a trophy? When did staying active or washing your face or burning a candle require bragging rights? Only in an extremely unhappy and numb world…
Self-care is often ugly.
Self-care usually takes doing the things you least want to do. It is letting yourself be unexceptional. It is choosing to be normal. Self-care is not caring about what the world thinks of you but rather what YOU think of you. It is looking at your failures and disappointments, and readjusting your Life to point in any direction other than your self-perceived expectations. It is being yourself and loving who you are.
If you find yourself continuously seeking to indulge in the world’s “self-care” then you are disconnected from real self-care. You’ve numbed yourself by avoiding the sharp edges of Life. When you never allow yourself to feel the chaos of a messy house, the disappoint in a failed project, the pain of a rejected relationship, grief, sorrow, or any other real feelings, then you’ve been robbed of becoming the best version of yourself possible.
Life has ugly, rude, and aggressive edges. This is a fact. And hiding from that truth is not self-care.
Rather facing that darkness is caring about yourself. By allowing chaos and disappointment and pain into your life, you’re actively learning how to overcome that darkness. You’re rolling with the punches to ultimately have the light to shine through in forms of authenticity, happiness, and love.
In other words, you must rage through the battle to win the war.
So, post that trendy picture on Instagram of your bubble bath. And if you need encouragement from your online friends for continuing to get up in the morning, that’s okay. But start to realize how these tactics are not self-care. Instead, coming to terms with who you are, why you are the way you are, and what it’ll take for you to love that quirky person in the mirror is what self-care is all about.
Ugly edges and all.